Episode 13: The End of the End of the Earth

In the final book-focused episode of our first season, critic Leo Robson joins us to discuss Jonathan Franzen’s most recent collection of essays, The End of the End of the Earth. It’s a more focused book than its nonfiction predecessor, Farther Away—nearly all of the essays revolve around nature and, in particular, birds. But is that a good thing? (No, it’s not.)

There are some non-bird things in this book, most notably a repellant essay about Edith Wharton that focuses on her attractiveness. And there is at least one decent essay, the title essay, which covers Franzen’s time aboard an Arctic cruise ship and is his take on his frenemy David Foster Wallace’s most famous work of nonfiction, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” But mostly, this is a book about Jonathan Franzen’s only friends: the birds.

About Mr. Difficult

How did Jonathan Franzen become America’s most divisive novelist? Is he even good? And what’s the deal with his relationship with birds, anyway? Mr. Difficult is a podcast devoted to exploring these and many other questions related to this great American novelist. (Or is it the great American novelist?) Join co-hosts Erin Somers and Alex Shephard and producer Eric Jett as they discuss each of Franzen’s six novels, as well as his nonfiction.